Jack Straw proposed the occupation regime’s recognition if the Republic of Cyprus continues blocking Turkey’s EU bid; He described as a huge mistake Cyprus’s admission to the EU
Under the title: “Straw proposed KKTC recognition to resolve Turkey-EU stalemate”, Turkish daily Today’s Zaman (08.03.13) published an exclusive interview to the paper, by Jack Straw, the former UK foreign secretary.

“You have sometimes to get people to understand what the consequences of their actions are. It may still be this that if the Greek Cypriots continued to block the accession approach of Turkey, then my view is certainly that we have to move towards recognizing the KKTC”, Straw said.

In the interview Straw did not mince his words both for the Greek Cypriots and the EU regarding their Turkey policies. Calling the admission of Greek Cypriots into the club without the solution of the Cyprus matter “a huge mistake,” Straw said it was now time to get tough with the Greek Cypriots and argued that if they would continue to block Turkey’s accession process, then the “TRNC” should be recognized. Straw said it was a disgraceful story to keep Turkish Cypriots out in the cold despite the fact that they said “yes” to the Annan plan. Straw’s very critical remarks come right after Nikos Anastasiadis who said “yes” to the Annan plan in 2004 has been elected President of “Greek Cyprus”, as the Republic of Cyprus is called.

Straw was the British Foreign Secretary when Turkey started accession talks back in 2005. After a marathon session of talks spanning 40 hours, he said he was “very angry and very sad” on the state of Turkey’s accession talks with the European Union. Known as the “architect of the accession of talks,” Straw worked very hard together with former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair on October 2 and 3 to break the “resistance” of the Greek Cypriots and the Austrians in particular and kick-start talks with Turkey.

Remembering the night of October 3, Straw said the Austrians reacted as if there was a third siege of Vienna by the Turks and that the Greek Cypriots were warned that there would be “consequences” if they blocked the start of the talks.

Following is a part of Straw’s interview:

Q: “You were the UK Foreign Minister in 2005, and the UK was the term President of the EU when the accession talks started with Turkey. You personally did a lot to convince the Austrians in particular and then the Greek Cypriots to get their “yes.” In your book you said it was your proudest personal achievement as UK foreign secretary. But now the process is in a shambles, almost half of the chapters are suspended and the process is not going anywhere. How do you feel?
I feel very sad and also very angry that this great opportunity for the European Union of having a really important country, Turkey, in an active process of accession has been stalled — blocked as a result of some petty politics by the Greek Cypriots and a strategic mistake that was subsequently made in 2005 by France and Germany. That [mistake] was particularly made by former President Sarkozy. I have some hope now that with Francois Hollande as the president of France and what appears to be a quite marked shift by Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany that there may be a better understanding inside the EU of the importance of getting these talks going. The other view I have is that now is the time for the European Commission and large countries generally inside the European Union to start being tough with the Greek Cypriots. There’s a history as to why Greek Cyprus was allowed into the EU, it shouldn’t have been, but it was a mistake that we were involved in as well.

Q: Do you sometimes think it was a huge mistake?
No question about it, it was a huge mistake. There was a reason for it, which was that the party that appeared to be obdurate and continually unhelpful at the time for some years was north Cyprus when it was run by Mr. [Rauf] Denktas, whereas south Cyprus always appeared reasonable. It was strategically a huge mistake. Particularly after Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos wilfully broke his own promise and campaigned for a ‘no’ vote when he signed for a ‘yes’ vote in the Annan negotiations, so big mistakes. I’m afraid one can’t repair those mistakes immediately, but we ought to be able to make progress, and I say now that people have seen exposed the true nature of the financial shambles of Greek Cyprus and its huge indebtedness to Russia and many other problems, which is worrying Germany among others. It’s time I think to get tough with the Cypriots.

Q: People in Turkey have now lost nearly all hope in the EU. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has started to talk about whether Turkey should be in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

One of my arguments always was that Turkey is such an important strategic country, such a largely important country, that its strategy would not be stable and it wouldn’t always be looking West. If we push them away, they would look East. What else would any leader elsewhere in Europe do in that situation? So I think that a process in which Turkey looks East if its Western partners are pushing it away is inevitable; it’s regrettable but inevitable.

Q: You were the architect of the October 3 night. We waited 40 hours for you to convince the Austrians. You had the impression then that the Austrians were behaving as though Vienna was under another siege by the Turks.

You can’t engage in any complex negotiation in Europe which affects the individual country’s sense of their nationhood without understanding their history. To the Austrians and the Christian heritage countries in the Balkans, what happened in the continuing clashes with the Ottoman Empire feels to some of them like yesterday. So that’s why I said that and it was true.

Q: Another problem was the Greek Cypriots. There were rumours that you actually convinced them together with Prime Minister Blair by telling them that if they didn’t agree that night then you would recognize the Turkish side of Cyprus. Was it true?

It wasn’t quite as stark as that, but we had to explain to them that there would be consequences if a very small state of a divided island kept a very large state from even starting to negotiate. Critical to the shift by the Greek Cypriots was the approach of George Papandreou, the foreign minister of Greece at the time, who is a great man, and he too could see strategically why it was so important for Greece as well as for the Greek Cypriots to end this standoff with Turkey and with the Turkish Cypriots. You have to sometimes get people to understand what the consequences of their actions are. It may still be that if the Greek Cypriots continue to block the accession approach of Turkey, then my view is certainly that we have to move towards recognizing the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus [KKTC]. I’ve written about this, that we can’t go in my view forever pretending that you can bring these two sides together if that is impossible. Part of the difficulty at the moment is that you’ve got a de facto partition, anyway, as for the Greek Cypriots there is little or no incentive for them for a compromise because they’ve got all the benefits of a partition without any of the disadvantages. So in time we may have to get there, and it’s not the end of the world; after all some of the former provinces of Yugoslavia were separated and partitioned.

Q: Gunter Verheugen, the then-enlargement commissioner, said in the European Parliament publicly that he felt cheated by the Greek Cypriots, and then there was the direct trade regulation by the council two days after the referendum that was never implemented. The Turkish Cypriots were left out in the cold.

It’s a disgraceful story, if that’s what you’re saying to me, and it makes me very angry. That is why I have moved over the last decade from a position of relative neutrality between the position of the Greek Cypriot government and that of the Turkish Cypriots to one where I believe that a great injustice has been done to the Turkish Cypriot community, and this has nothing to do with the feelings for the Greek Cypriot population who I feel great affection for, but it is about their system.

Q: People criticize Britain as well, saying they did not help at all. A British Airways plane could have landed in Ercan, for example, they say.

Well, I wanted that to happen; I devoted a lot of time looking at the detailed regulations, very detailed regulations, getting legal advice, and I’m afraid to say that my time ran out because then, I was moved from the Foreign Office to the leader of the House of Commons. If I had stayed I might have been able to resolve that, but it was a contest, not least without lawyers, and their default setting is to say ‘No, you can’t do this’.”


Leave a Reply